By: Howard S. Krooks, JD, CELA, CAP
Q: I am 78 and my girlfriend of 10 years is 72. We enjoy a wonderful relationship and are contemplating getting married, but are concerned about what would happen if one of us became ill and required long-term care services. What do you advise?
A: Getting married at any age can be a wonderful event, but in later years long-term care planning should be considered before you take the plunge. This is because in most states, spouses are legally responsible for the long-term care costs of an ill spouse in need of long-term care services. If one of the spouses has substantially more assets, then these assets could be dissipated on the long-term care costs of the ill spouse simply because the marriage took place. Yet if the two of you had decided to remain unmarried, then neither one of you would be held responsible for paying the long-term care costs of the other. With an average nursing home cost exceeding $6,000 per month nationally, and in some areas of the country as much as $14,000 per month, the reduction in one’s assets could be significant.
Further, while your assets are clearly your business and not your children’s, you may wish to consider the impact of your decisions on your children, which in turn may affect your relationship with your children. If it was your intent to leave assets to your children, then this goal may be significantly compromised by the depletion of your estate on long-term care costs of your new spouse. Similarly, if your children see that the assets you intended to go to them upon your death are now going to pay the long-term care costs of your new spouse, this will likely have a detrimental impact on the relationship you enjoy with your kids.
The information above is provided by Howard S. Krooks, JD, CELA, CAP, of Boca Raton, Fla. Mr. Krooks is a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA), leading the way in Special Needs and Elder Law, www.NAELA.org.